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Like many people, Evanston resident Sera Young faced last year’s COVID-19 lockdown with a combination of dread and boredom. “We were going crazy at home,” she recalled. So she started “doing O’s” with her family, that is, taking long looping walks around the neighborhood.

That’s when she noticed the “unappreciated little park” on the east side of Lincolnwood Drive between Harrison and Lincoln streets. Overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash, “It looked like it could use a little TLC,” she recalled. So she and her Harrison Street neighbor and friend Rachel Hanrahan decided to clean it up.

They started with a call to 6th Ward City Council member Tom Suffredin, in whose ward the park is located. Suffredin referred them to Stephen Walker, the City’s Public Works Supervisor.

Walker cautioned them a makeover, even in a park as tiny as that one, would require more than a little TLC. “So we made a pinky promise,” Young recalled, “and committed to making it happen.”

Over the course of a year, volunteer neighbors cleaned out the trash, trimmed trees, pulled weeds and planted City-donated pollinator plants like milkweed and golden rod. Young donated a red maple tree from her family garden, which the City helped plant. Last Mother’s Day Harrison Street neighbors used a rototiller to dig out a large patch of overgrown ivy. They also repainted the bench there to say “Turnaround Park.”

Rachel Hanrahan (left) and Sera Young at the Turnaround Park bench. (Photo by Les Jacobson)

Why Turnaround Park?

According to Kevin Hanrahan, Rachel’s husband and the unofficial neighborhood historian, a century ago a local street car ran from Central Street and Green Bay Road west to Lincolnwood Drive. It turned around at the little park. Hence the name.

Sixth Ward Council member Tom Suffredin wields the scissors at the Sept. 18 Turnaround Park dedication ceremony. With him are youthful neighbors (from left) Aurora Lucks and Kira Hanrahan, and (at right) their mothers Rachel Hanrahan and Sera Young. (Photo by Les Jacobson)

The effort was capped Sept. 18 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Suffredin, Young, Hanrahan and dozens of neighbors taking part during the annual Harrison Street block party.

Was the turnaround at Turnaround Park worth the effort? “Absolutely,” said Young. “It brought out the best in our ‘hood.”

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently three consecutive Northern...

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  1. What a great success story, however i am not surprised as Sera Young is my daughter and history will show when she decides to march, the band plays.